How to Write a 30 Minute Sitcom Script

Understanding how to write a 30 minute sitcom script is a great skill, whether you want to have fun emulating some of your favourite shows or if you aspire to be a professional comedy writer.

Half an hour of TV can pass quickly, so when writing a script you have to structure it succinctly to fit that limited time frame. But it doesn’t need to be difficult. Check out these top tips then try your hand at writing your own 30 minute sitcom script.

How long is a script for a 30 minute show?

First, you need to be aware of how long the script for your show needs to be. While it may seem obvious that you need to write enough to fill 30 minutes of run time, this isn’t quite true. 

The half hour also typically includes commercials in the middle (as well as some running over at the start and end). This means that a standard sitcom episode is actually 22 minutes long.

Two members of a film crew operate a camera and watch a screen while filming.

How many pages is a 30 minute TV script?

While edits in the post-production stage are essential to cutting an episode down to 22 minutes, as a script writer it’s vital to keep take into account that run time.

While the actual length of a script will vary to some degree, a typical sitcom script will be between 25 and 40 pages long. This is because a single page from the script tends to take up under a minute of run time.

How to keep your script from becoming too long

When you’ve finished a draft of your script, you’ll need to check that it won’t overrun the expected 22 minutes. The best way to do this is simply get out a stopwatch and read it.

Make sure to read out aloud so the pacing for each line better matches up to how it would during shooting. Don’t forget to leave gaps as well for any additional actions. You can even get friends and family to help fill out the cast.

Creating characters

Getting your characters right is vital in any script writing, but especially sitcoms. Creating great characters is the reason a sitcom is memorable and can make people laugh.

But don’t get carried away. Your cast should be small. If you’re writing a pilot episode, there’s only so many people you can introduce in 22 minutes before things start to feel crowded.

Think of some famous sitcoms as examples. Seinfeld had a core of four characters while Friends had six. You can have a few supporting characters as well, but the main cast needs to be limited.

Additionally, your characters should all be unique. With a smaller group, that’s easier to do. You need to make sure they all have individual personalities and quirks, so they all contribute to the plot and humour of the episode in their own ways.

Read and examine sitcom scripts

This may seem obvious, but to know how to write a 30 minute sitcom script you need to read plenty of examples too. Watching episodes and familiarising yourself with the structure and beats is all well and good, but studying the actual scripts will be even more rewarding.

This will give you an idea of how the script should be presented, how the different lines of dialogue actually look together, and how detailed the directions can be.

Review script template

In addition to checking out example scripts, it can also be useful to look over a sitcom script template. This is especially useful if you don’t have much experience writing scripts.

Unlike other written forms, like novels or writing short stories, scripts have specific ways they should be formatted. Getting a grip of this is the first challenge, so read over the rules, find some templates to use, and find some examples. Even if they’re not specifically sitcom scripts, they’ll still be helpful.

Follow a strong structure

To fit within 22 minutes, there’s no space for useless scenes and tangents. Keeping your sitcom script from becoming too long is easier if you can follow a strict structure.

Using a three act structure helps you to plot your story and make sure every scene works to propel the narrative forward. Each act only needs to be between 3 to 5 individual scenes.

Act 1

In the first act, you need to establish your characters, the general “situation” of your sitcom, and introduce the narrative for that specific episode. Usually, this involves setting up a problem or challenge that your characters need to face throughout the rest of the episode.

Act 2

The second act in the 30 minute sitcom structure continues with the plots established in the first, showing your characters trying to overcome their challenges or solve their problems. Often there will be a twist or two that prevents the plot from becoming too mundane or unsurprising, and these provide good places for the start of a commercial break as the audience will remain engaged and eager to see your episode resume.

Act 3

The final act then forms the climax and denouement to each plotline. Sometimes you might have two or three different plots that even converge in one climactic scene that throws the characters together.

Resolutions often appear as instances of success, with characters overcoming the challenges they faced in the episode. But in sitcoms especially the opposite can be true, and the final scene might show them instead failing at what they’ve been working so hard to achieve.

Join our mailing list

Subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date with our latest news and blog updates.


The most important part of developing your skills with writing 30 minute sitcom scripts is actually writing. You can read as much as you want, but ultimately you’ll only get better if you can put the theory into practice.

So write a first draft, however bad it might be. Then make edits. Tighten up the plot, make the characters more unique, and remember that you’re writing a sitcom – make sure it’s funny!

Then redraft it again. Read through to check that it’s not too long, and just keep drafting. Have other people read it too. Hopefully you’ll get constructive feedback, as well as a few laughs.

Sitcom script writing FAQs

How long does it take to write a 30 minute script?

Even though a 30 minute script seems quite short, especially if you’re watching a filmed episode of TV that’s condensed to a 22-minute runtime, it shouldn’t be a quite task to write one yourself. If you really want to rush the process, you could write an episode in only 30 minutes, but that’s guaranteed to feel amateurish and unpolished. A strong script could takes weeks to perfect, if not months.

How many words is a 30 minute script?

On average, a normal speaking rate can be anywhere between 100-150 words per minute (wpm), meaning a 30 minute script should be between 3,000 and 4,500 words. If there are commerial breaks to reduce this to a 22 minute runtime, then the script could be lower at between 2,200 and 3,300 words

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *